Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Opportunity to Produce a Venerable Matt Talbot Radio Play

Earlier this month Gerry Mc Donnell, a poet and author living in Dublin, informed us that he had recently written a radio play based on the life of Matt Talbot and was seeking someone who would be willing to produce it. This is an unique opportunity to help expand awareness of Matt Talbot.
We are, therefore, inviting everyone who might be interested to contact Gerry at

A copy of the play, The Cause of Matt Talbot, is available to anyone upon request to Gerry (or us at

Gerry wrote this synopsis of his play:

Synopsis of
This is a radio play which is approximately a half hour long. It is essentially about the journey and how people return changed from happenings on the journey.
Dan travels from Boston to Dublin to visit the shrine of Matt Talbot. He had promised his dying mother, who believed that he had been cured of alcoholism because of her prayers to Matt, that he would do so. He is skeptical and is on a dutiful visit to hand in notification of Matt’s intercession in his recovery from alcohol addiction. On the plane he meets Al a nervous, talkative traveller and a priest who has coincidentally written a pamphlet on Matt Talbot having been cured by praying to him. They talk about this patron protector of the alcoholic; their beliefs and doubts.
Dan arrives at the church where Matt’s tomb is. He stands at the back of the church in the gloom. The sacristan explains that he could talk to the priest after Mass. Soon after, the sacristan is back at his shoulder more loquacious than before. Dan gets a smell of drink off him. The Mass is long and after it is over the priest speaks to each parishioner in turn, giving them a blessing. Dan is waiting impatiently. He has to catch a flight back to Boston that afternoon. He explains his predicament to the sacristan who agrees to give the envelope to the priest. Once more the sacristan approaches Dan saying the priest would see him now. Dan asks the sacristan for the envelope which he doesn’t have. It transpires that the sacristan’s brother, who hangs around the church begging, has the envelope. Dan failed to distinguish between the two, in the shadows.
The priest assures him that his visit will not be wasted. He urges Dan to pray at Matt’s tomb. Dan is having compulsions to drink. He hears the voice of Matt encouraging him to stay sober. It is a transformative experience and he leaves the church with a blessing from the priest. His grimy surroundings look pristine. As he walks through the streets it is as if he is in love with everybody and everything. Feeling a little bit ungrateful he wonders is he having a flash-back to his drinking and drug taking days. He gets a taxi to the airport and boards his plane. He reaches into his pocket to read some of the literature on Matt which he got in the church. He takes out an envelope. It is the one given to him by his mother. The sacristan’s brother has the other envelope. He reflects on all that has happened. A fellow passenger engages him in small talk. He says, “I’m returning home, or am I?”

Some background information about Gerry Mc Donnell:

GERRY MC DONNELL was born and lives in Dublin. He was educated in Trinity College, Dublin where he edited  ICARUS, the college literary magazine; and at Dublin City University. He has had six collections of poetry published. He has also written for stage, radio and the television series Fair City. His play Making It Home, a two-hander father and son relationship, was first performed at the Crypt Theatre at Dublin Castle in 2001. A radio adaptation of this play was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 in 2008 starring the acclaimed Irish actor David Kelly as the father and Mark Lambert as the son. It has been translated into Breton and has been published. A stage production will happen in July 2014. He has written a radio play, a stage play and a libretto based on the life and work of the Irish poet James Clarence Mangan (1803 – 1849).

His stage play Song of Solomon, set on a canal in Dublin, has a Jewish theme. His interest in Irish Jewry has resulted in the chapbook Jewish Influences in Ulysses; a collection of monologues called Mud Island Elegy, in which Jews of 19th century Ireland speak about their lives from beyond the grave; Lost and Found concerning a homeless Jewish man living in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Mud Island Anthology, concerning ‘ordinary’ Dublin gentiles who lived in the latter half of the 20th century was published in 2009 and is a companion collection to the ‘Elegy’ poems. His latest collection of poetry, Ragged Star, was published in 2011 by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. His novella called Martin Incidentally was published in January 2013. I Heard An Irish Jew, selected poems and prose, will be published in 2014.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of Ireland and the Irish Writers’ Union.
CONTACT:  0876119002

When asked as to what led Gerry to write this play, he responded with the following very personal reflection:

Gerry Mc Donnell
December 2014

I grew up close to where Matt Talbot lived. I had heard him spoken of fondly by ordinary working class people. I also heard that he passed the picket on a strike. So I had conflicting ideas about him. Anyway he was a figure of the past and had little impact on my life, I thought; that is until I followed in his footsteps down the dark tunnel of alcoholism. At this time I was rebellious and had little time for religion or things spiritual. It was to be some years before the figure of Matt re-emerged in my thoughts. The intervening years had brought the tragedy of the untimely deaths of my parents. So I was ripe for resentment and blame which started with God and moved down to mankind. 

Matt Talbot was in my consciousness during my recovery from alcoholism. I wondered how he could have stayed sober in a city awash with alcohol and poverty. The fact that he had lain down the drink at twenty-eight and remained sober for the rest of his life puzzled me. How could a man, on his own, beat the demon drink? Of course he wasn’t on his own. He turned to his religion and devoted himself to Our Lady. I too turned to religion in the battle to stay sober. But I also had the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous for support. 

I still had ambivalent feelings about Matt and his fervour. Was he a religious maniac or a holy man? The chains he wore pointed to the former, yet the man I got to know in my reading about him bore testimony to the latter. In a secular world it is easy to interpret his life in a negative way and dismiss his self-denial- the block of wood for a pillow and the tear at the knee of his trousers so he could better feel the discomfort of his flesh on the granite steps of the church where he went to Mass before a hard day’s work in a timber yard- as the actions of a fanatic.

However, as I matured in my sobriety I began to see him as a holy man. I read that he shared what little lunch he had with his fellow workers. He was kind and happy in himself although no doubt he had his demons to wrestle with. This was not the portrait of a deranged man. Nobody suffering from a mental illness could accomplish what he did as a life-long diligent worker and a daily Mass goer. 

 What led me to write my play, The Cause of Matt Talbot, was my identification with his Catholic, working class life and his recovery from alcoholism. I hope I have given a true picture of him in the play or at least have not besmirched his memory in any way.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Venerable Matthew Talbot Conversion Story

[This is one of the more personal and thoughtful introductory articles about Matt Talbot we have posted.]

Conversion Story: Venerable Matthew Talbot 

By Jeannie Ewing  

December 10, 2014

As a child, I found most of the stories of saints I read to be distant and abstract, entirely irrelevant to a young dreamer like me.  As an adult, however, not only have the lives of the saints influenced my spirituality and lifestyle, but many other people’s stories who have not yet been canonized have quickened my heart and linger there. The story of Venerable Matthew ("Matt") Talbot and his conversion is one of them. 

Venerable Matt Talbot was a typical Irishman who lived and worked in Dublin at the turn of the nineteenth century; he was typical in the sense that he was born into a large, Catholic family deeply impoverished and afflicted with the family disease of alcoholism.  But the sanctified manner in which he died was dramatically divergent from the sinful, selfish lifestyle he maintained from the onset of adolescence until his eventual conversion. “Matt Talbot was not someone who did things by halves.  For as fervently as he devoted himself to drinking in his young years, he just as fervently gave the rest of his life to God” (McGrane, 2006).  He lived in an epoch and milieu in which alcoholism was pervasive; Dublin alone in 1865 sheltered over two thousand pubs, and many people were recorded to have died from alcohol poisoning in 1865-1 (McGrane, 2006).

Matt’s father was an alcoholic, and Matt himself began drinking heavily at age twelve; it was readily available to him through his job at a “wine and beer establishment in Dublin” (McGrane, 2006).  His father tried to dissuade his drinking through intense scourging at home when Matt would arrive after work in a drunken stupor, but nothing and no one could prevent Matt from the downward spiral into the darkness of alcoholism. 

By today’s definition, he was truly addicted to alcohol.  His wages were essential to supplement his family’s needs.  There were twelve of them living at home, and both his mother and father were hard workers yet very poor.  As soon as Matt was paid, he gave his favorite pub owner all of his hard-earned money with the instruction to keep it all until he drank his earnings dry.  He often became so desperate for alcohol that he would beg from his friends for extra money, and he even came home on more than one occasion with no shirt or boots, as he had sold them for alcohol money (McGrane, 2006). 

At the age of 28, Matt hit rock bottom and pledged to his mother that he would never imbibe again. He held true to his promise.  Amazingly, he was able to do this without the help of any sort of rehabilitative program, as none existed to assist him at the time.  It was truly a miracle of God’s grace that Matt was able to change his life from the moment his mother told him, “Go, then, in God’s name, but don’t take [the pledge] unless you are going to keep it.”  As Matt responded that he intended to keep his pledge “in God’s name,” his mother added, “God give you the strength to keep it” (McGrane, 2006). 

Soon afterward, Matt chose to deepen his relationship with God, which had been waning since the disease of alcoholism had consumed his entire being.  “As an alcoholic, Matt’s god was the bottle, and his altar was a bar” (McGrane, 2006).  Yet, as is the case for many heroic saints whose vigor for self transforms into pining for God, Matt’s zeal for drinking quickly and permanently became transformed into a thirst for God.  He realized that God alone could slake his eternal thirst, and returning to the sacraments was grace enough for Matt to tackle withdrawals and long-term sobriety.

A striking feature of Matt’s conversion is that his life did not drastically change on the exterior; he remained a hard worker at his job doing manual labor, and he continued his daily regimen without much notice from others; yet Matt’s interior life was deepening rapidly, and he kept this dramatic conversion largely to himself out of profound humility. 

Eventually, however, everyone noticed Matt’s spiritual metamorphosis, though it was entirely by the silent witness of his changed life.  The day after Matt made his pledge to stop drinking, he began a lifelong commitment to attend daily Mass, and he would arrive at least a half hour early for silent prayer and devotions.  Instead of spending every last iota of money on alcohol, Matt donated much of his earning to charitable organizations.  He joined several Catholic sodalities through his boyhood parish, and he was faithful to classic devotions, such as the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary.  Most notably was how “Matt ate very little food and chose to sleep on a plank instead of a mattress” (McGrane 2006) as an act of penitence. 

Matt Talbot died at the age of 69 while walking to daily Mass at St. Saviour’s Church; he had been ill with heart and kidney problems (possibly related to the many years of abusing alcohol) and yet soldiered on to spend time with the Lord while he was suffering and struggling in the physical aftermath of his former malady.  No one could identify Matt when he collapsed on the road outside the parish, as he was carrying only a rosary and a prayer book.  Probably most shocking of all is that physicians discovered Matt’s body was covered in chains beneath his clothing once they began to prepare his body  for his funeral.  Matt may have chosen to succumb to instant gratification and sensual pleasures early in his life, but he certainly became a man of humble and authentic austerity in the end of his life.
There are two reasons Matt Talbot’s story strikes me so deeply: firstly, I belong to a family riddled with alcoholism and addiction.  I have witnessed family members and close friends become slaves to this disease, and a few of them have tragically died as a direct result of the consequences of alcohol and drug abuse. 
Secondly, I find the humility and asceticism of Matt's life to be so relevant and inspiring. Matt’s conversion was sincere, because he was encased in humility, and humility is a virtue so contrary to our natural concupiscence.  In fact, humility is the antidote to the vice of pride, which many theological scholars agree is the foundation and root of all other sins.  We dwell in the midst of the technological revolution in which it is commonplace for every American household to contain a plethora of virtual devices.  Yet asceticism draws the spirit of humanity, entices the eternal thirst of every soul back to its source: God and eternal rest with Him in Heaven.  I cannot imagine that any of us will acquire sainthood without obtaining the virtue of humility, which necessitates a perpetual dying to self; yet it seems even more challenging to achieve this when we are immersed in busyness; surrounded by constant noise; and generally exhausted and unfulfilled by the nagging restlessness that pervades our lives.  Matt Talbot recognized his own restlessness and responded quickly and fervently to God’s call for healing and holiness; this is the universal beckoning of all of humanity.

Matt Talbot may have earned an early reputation as a drunk, a low-life, and a selfish man, but he died a saintly man whose cause for canonization began in 1931.  He shed everything in his old life that encapsulated his sins and instead became a true zealot for everything that encompassed holiness: living for and in God’s abundant grace so that he could gain eternity by embracing a life of extreme simplicity and penitence, prayer and self-denial.  Who knows how many sufferings Matt silently offered as a sacrifice to God in reparation for his sins and for the sake of many other souls?  Yet that is precisely what makes his story so beautiful: he is one of us, and his life’s journey serves as a hopeful reminder that anyone in a state of darkness and sin has the potential to become a great saint when s/he cooperates daily in the act of total abandonment to God’s love and mercy.

Matt Talbot knew God’s mercy well, because he was cognizant of the enormity of God’s love for him and for all souls.  He is an excellent patron for those we all know who suffer from the disease of addiction, and what hope we can all gain in knowing and sharing his legacy with those who have lost all hope.

REFERENCE:  McGrane, Janice.  (2006). Saints to Lean on: Spiritual Companions for illness and disability, 81-93.  Cincinnati, OH:  St. Anthony Messenger Press.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Two Models of Change

"We should contribute"
The Catholic Messenger 
November 6, 2014  

"The saints in Christian history are models for almost any kind of human behavior. Some, like the great Augustine and the modern Irishman, Venerable Matt Talbot, are also models of change. They showed that early wildness does not define a life. The worst cad and drunk can become someone worth imitating for virtue.

At last month’s synod on marriage and family in Rome, some of the bishops spoke of such change as a “gradualism” recognized by the Catholic Church. Some other bishops at the synod worried that such talk is dangerous. People could misunderstand it as tolerance of poor judgment and a careless attitude toward virtue in youth.

St. Augustine is famous for praying, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” This was during his early dissolute years. He finally reached that goal, but not until after fathering a child and leaving the mother. He had been drawn to Christianity even as a young man, and he knew how to pray. Even in his wandering he was listening for the movement of God in his life. But Augustine’s move from reckless playboy to Christian hero — with the title Doctor of the Church — was made gradually, at his own personal pace.

Matt Talbot’s story is similar. He lived from 1856 to 1925 as a laborer in Dublin. In his early teen years he began drinking any liquor he could get, borrowing money for drinks, even stealing when the money ran out. After 16 years of this he made a pledge of sobriety, kept it, and became known for quiet kindness and charity to fellow workers. When he dropped dead on a Dublin street at the age of 69, he was found with a small chain wrapped around his body. It turned out that he had worn this for years as a practice of penance and self-control.

There are people who seem to move through life on a steady ladder of growth in virtue. For most of us, the story is different. We rise and fall, stumble, slip, rise and fall. And keep hoping, keep growing in our own ragged way, like Augustine and Matt Talbot...”


A woman who spent over two decades as a self-described ‘low bottom’ drug and alcohol addict and is now in recovery and practicing her religious faith again has recently stated that “I know now what I didn’t know before, that life doesn’t have to stay the same.  For years I didn’t know I had a choice to live any other way. Now I know that I have a daily choice.”

One of the many spiritual books that Matt Talbot read in sobriety was Confessions by St. Augustine.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Our Common Purpose

The following excerpt is from a meditation by Msgr. Charles Pope at

God has us here in this place at this time for a reason. We have some very particular purposes in His plan and He alone knows them all. Try for a moment to appreciate your dignity in this regard. You play a critical part in a cascade of events that ripple from your life and your place in God’s plan. No one can take that place and your role is crucial to millions of subsequent transactions in God’s wonderful vision.  Psalm 139 has this to say:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue  you know it completely, O LORD.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,  too lofty for me to attain. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. All my days  were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139, selected verses).

Despite whatever differences exist in our perceived  purposes in God’s plan, one common purpose is to share our interest about Venerable Matt Talbot with others and to pray for his canonization.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Venerable Matt Talbot Shrine Sign

The mortal remains of Matt Talbot rest in Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sean MacDermott St., Dublin.  
Photos within the shrine and church are posted at The shrine is on Facebook at

Matt Talbot Shrine's photo.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Talbot Memorial Bridge in Dublin

At first glance one might think that this Dublin bridge solely honors Venerable Matt Talbot.   But as this article indicates, it honors many in addition to Matt.
Stories of remarkable men in different times, in Dublin and in far flung places, are commemorated in the name Talbot Memorial Bridge.
Matthew Talbot was one of Dublin’s poor. Born in 1856, he was both a worker and a drunkard by the age of 12 - a fate that was all too common among his family and fellow inner city Dubliners. That he pawned his shabby shoes, short changed his long suffering mother, drifted between jobs and conned friends and acquaintances - all for the sake of yet another drink - is too unremarkable a story for Matt to have made it into the history books. Nothing was expected of his life other than he would die as he had lived - drunk and in abject poverty.

Yet within a year of his death in 1925 he became an inspiration to millions across the world. For Matt took the pledge - a promise to abstain from alcohol - in 1884 and turned to God. He overcame tortuous temptation with prayer, attending Mass each morning at 5am. He died on the street, the depth of his devotion becoming obvious when the heavy chains and knotted ropes, embedded into his flesh, were removed by mortuary workers.

He had lived as an anonymous ascetic but in death became venerated for his saintly life. Though Matt had kept his feet on terra firma, for many young lads of the north and south docklands a life at sea beckoned - from the days of being press ganged to fight in the service of the British, to joining the merchant navy to sail the seven seas, or working on the ferries criss-crossing the Irish Sea. Thousands said ‘good-bye’ never to return again, meeting their fate in some distant land or finding their final resting place beneath waves which would never wash an Irish shore.

During the Second World War, in particular, Irish seamen knowingly risked their lives to bring essential supplies home to Ireland, a neutral country. From a small fleet, 16 ships were lost to unprovoked attacks - by aircraft, mines and torpedoes - and 136 men died. The Talbot Memorial Bridge is a monument to these ordinary and, at once, extraordinary Dubliners and Irishmen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Temperance Message of Fr. Theobald Mathew

While their lives only overlapped by seven months,  the temperance movement message of Fr. Mathew, especially in Ireland and the USA, influenced Matt Talbot and hundreds of thousands to take the pledge to abstain from alcohol.

“THEOBALD MATHEW: Temperance ‘Precursor’ to Fr Cullen”
By Paula Murray
Pioneer Magazine
November 2013
A ‘Who’s Who’ of Ireland’s great benefactors will rarely nowadays include a biography of Fr Theobald Mathew. His enormous achievements and legacy will be skipped over, as if to minimise the enduring impact of his endeavours to help the Irish extricate themselves from the heartbreak and sorrow of addiction to alcohol.

Today the message of Fr Mathew is sorely needed, as Irish young people as a group, like their peers in so many other countries, seem deaf to all the warnings from their elders. They seem to have little idea of how easily alcohol addiction is acquired. Fr Theobald, now dead for over 150 years, would have his hands full in the Ireland of today. Were he a time-traveller, all his charismatic skills would be required to persuade the youth of Ireland that drinking alcohol is not a harmless activity.

The debate over alcohol addiction is never far from the Irish conversation. It is omni-present, and ubiquitous. Yet, it was Fr Mathew who put this issue in the forefront of the national debate, and made it impossible to ignore. The abuse of alcohol and the casualness of the Irish people towards it was always on his mind and, aiding the Irish as a nation, in effect, educating and advising them, became his life’s work.

Few would have predicted that the shy teenager, self-effacing and uncertain in the family home in County Tipperary would one day become the most charismatic preacher of his era. Fr Mathew didn’t have a magic formula, or even a guarantee of success. From pastoral experience, he knew that our pre-Famine population of eight million was far too inclined to indulge. The imperialism of Britain was often cited as an excuse. However, even after the dreadful trauma of the Famine, the love of the Irish for drink did not go away. If anything, it increased, although our population had been reduced by over three million. For Fr Mathew, it would be an uphill road.

The self-imposed task he underwent to reform Irish drinking habits would exhaust him but he kept battling on until his death on 8 December 1856. The boy who would one day become the Venerable Matt Talbot and one of the glories of the ‘pledge’, a concept promoted vigorously and successfully by Fr Mathew, was born in the May of that same year.

Fr Theobald was one of twelve children, nine boys and three girls. He was born on 10 October, 1790. ‘Toby’ was the nick-name by which his family knew him, and ‘Darlin’ Master Toby’ by the poor of the locality who considered him ‘a born saint’. He was educated in Thurles and Kilkenny, excelling at Greek, Latin and English history. After applying and being accepted for Maynooth, ‘Toby’s stay there was cut short because the authorities in the college took umbrage at his organising a social event. Toby went home, dejected and embarrassed and, for some time, had little to do by way of ecclesiastical engagements, until it struck him to join the Capuchin Order, where he was quickly accepted as a novice.

He was one of the generation of young Irish people to make their way to seminaries and novitiates once again, as the rigors of the Penal Laws began to ease early in the nineteenth century. In both Kilkenny and Dublin, Fr Theobald was singled out by the congregation as being a rare and kind confessor. It would be in Cork, though, that ‘Toby’s’ great life’s work had its origins: ending the scourge of alcohol abuse. Thus, the yearning congregations of Cork would readily adopt the ardent young man from Co Tipperary. In addition, ‘Toby’ became renowned for his generosity to the poor. He would never allow a poor person to go away empty-handed. ‘Give, give’, he used to say, ‘what you have, you got from God.’

Theobald was elected Provincial of the Capuchin Order in 1822, on the death of the then Provincial, and held that office for almost thirty years, eventually retiring due only to ill health.  Contrary to public opinion, Fr Mathew did not invent the concept of total abstinence. It began in America the previous century, and had much success with Protestant communities, who embraced the whole notion of abstaining from alcohol, in cases where moderation failed. The Quaker community also recommended abstinence, and it was one of their own, a Quaker called Martin who set the ball rolling in Cork, very close to where Fr Mathew lived with his community. At this juncture, Fr Mathew began to consider the possibility of promoting total abstinence from alcohol among his beleaguered people. The whole jigsaw of finding and ending the curse of alcohol addiction came together in his mind, and he suddenly saw a way forward.

On 10 April 1838, Fr Mathew uttered his famous phrase ‘Here goes in the name of God’, and launched, in Cork, with Quaker Martin, what became a great temperance campaign, introducing large numbers of his fellow-Irish to the notion of total abstinence from alcohol. Large crowds came to hear Fr Mathew preach. He was invited all over Ireland as well as to Britain and the United States to spread his message. Hundreds of thousands of people of all religious persuasions took the pledge on hearing him speak. The statue of him in Dublin’s O’Connell Street shows him as he was - enthusiastic, exhorting, encouraging others, as he reached to the skies.

Fr Mathew’s success as a temperance leader is indisputable. His legacy waned when, after his death, many of those ‘pledge-takers’ reverted back to alcohol-abuse. Nevertheless, many families and communities reaped a plethora of rewards for as long as they remained abstainers.  Fr James Cullen, Pioneer founder, was inspired by the work of Fr Mathew and had the ambition to take up where his great predecessor had left off. In a sense, Fr Mathew was the forerunner of the Pioneer movement. Perhaps in the Ireland of today, those of us blessed enough to be Pioneers, can offer up our gift of abstinence for the people we know or hear of, who can’t abstain at all. Perhaps we, who don’t drink alcohol, can ‘launch into the deep’ with a prayer that life may be made bearable for those whose drinking is a source of suffering for both themselves and others.

Note: For one additional reference see

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Purpose in Life

Matt Talbot’s purpose in life until his 28th year of life was basically to work and drink. Then one Saturday when his mates refused to buy him drinks, he experienced his personal “bottom,” took the pledge not to drink, and returned fully to the Catholic Church, remaining sober until his death 41 years later.
"All of us have a purpose in life. God put us here because of his great plan for us. He has also equipped us with the right grace, strength, intelligence, etc.  for us to fulfill this purpose or mission he has planned for us. But we have a choice whether to accept this mission or not.

When we do accept the mission, we can go through it properly doing the best that we can do for the greater glory of God or we can do it half-heartedly out of laziness or maybe not do it at all for fear of the unknown future. Again the choice is ours. The more blessings we receive, the more we are called to be of service to others and share these blessings. It is good to remember though that whatever choices we make there are consequences. This is the task we have at hand… the choice is ours.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Matt Talbot's Road to Sainthood

As an author, speaker, and founder of Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach in Lincoln, Nebraska, Mary Costello has introduced people to Venerable Matt Talbot for decades. She will be speaking on the following topic November 20, 2014 at 7 pm at MTKO.

by Mary Costello
November 2014
"Some of you who receive the Catholic paper, The Southern Nebraska Register might have already read about the miracle performed by God through the intercession of Matt Talbot. But the wonderful news to those of us here in Lincoln is that the family involved in the miracle heard about the man they prayed to because of the Kitchen and Outreach center here in Lincoln, Nebraska!

Many of us who are concerned with alcoholism and addictions have been praying, working and hoping for a verifiable, physical miracle to be performed through the intercession of Matt Talbot for 75 years. But while Matt continues to help thousands of men and women, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas return to lives of sobriety and serenity, these are considered psychological miracles and cannot be considered by the Congregation of Rites, the folks who decide these things in Rome. They need physical miracles to move a candidate from the status of “Venerable” where Matt stands today, to “Blessed” and then, Praise God one day, to the level of “Saint.”

Yes, there has been a miracle in the suburb of Overland Park, Kans. A young couple, Shannon and Patrick Watkins, traveled to Lincoln for the baptism of a relative’s baby and heard about our work and decided to name their baby Talbot. I’ll explain more about the miracle when I come to see you all in November.

I know many people, even people associated with MTKO really don’t know much about the man, Matt Talbot. No, he wasn’t a relative of mine, nor a friend! Let me tell you a little about this marvelous man and, hopefully, soon-to-be-saint: he was born into a very poor, alcoholic family in Dublin, Ireland in 1856. He had very little education and admits himself he was probably an alcoholic by his early teens. He went to work when he was only 12, which was the custom and because of another interesting Irish custom (the biggest employer being one of the world’s largest brewers) the paychecks were not sent home with the workers but were deposited with the local pub owners. Sounds incredible, but true. (It was the Catholic Church that finally led efforts to change this custom, but not until the 1920’s!)

Therefore, every worker had to pass through the neighborhood watering hole before he arrived home on payday. We can only surmise how many ever made it home with a few shillings still jangling in his pockets. This was at a time when Ireland was still recovering from the Great Famine of the late 1840’s and 1850’s; thousands of people were unemployed, starving farmers were streaming in from the west and soldiers were coming home from the Crimean War. Dublin was a sea of destitution and poverty.

Matt Talbot and his brothers were some of the unfortunates who usually happily received their paychecks on Saturday noon and had drained it by Tuesday night. The rest of the week they drank “on the cuff” or on the charity of their friends. But one week when Matt was 28, he had been sick all week. He didn’t draw a paycheck at all. One Saturday noon he stood outside his favorite pub waiting for one of his pals to invite him in for a nip or two. No one did. Matt walked a few steps to the bridge overlooking the Royal Canal. He had never been a particularly spiritual person. His religious education had taken him only to his First Communion and Confirmation and while he attended Mass most Sundays he did not receive the Sacraments. There was in Ireland at the time a practice called “Taking the Pledge” designed by a Catholic priest, Fr. Mathew, to stem the tide of the horrendous problem of alcoholism in Ireland in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

We don’t know what God whispered to Matt that afternoon in 1874, but it must have been something wonderful. Matt walked home and said to this mother, “I’m going to take the Pledge,” and she said, “Don’ take it unless you’re going to keep it.” He said, “I am going to keep it.”

But the way that he kept it was the great thing, the thing that turned him into a saint. From home that first day, Matt walked to Conliffe College, a seminary in Dublin, where he went to Confession and took the Pledge. The next morning, he went to Mass and Communion for the first time in many years. During the week, he got up early and went to daily Mass, praying that the Lord would help him stay sober. After work, instead of going to the bar, he visited the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He asked the priests at the College to teach him to read (he could barely read and write his name) so he could read the lives of the saints and he ended up reading and understanding deep theology.

Matt Talbot especially loved Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Wisdom and he slept with a statue of her in his arms. For the next 40+ years, he ate only enough to keep himself alive and gave away most of his earnings (the Columban Fathers were one of his favorite charities); he lived simply, sleeping on planks for only a few hours a night and spending many hours a day in prayer or spiritual reading. He died on his way to his third Mass of the day on Trinity Sunday, June 7, 1925. After years of study, he was declared “Venerable” by Pope Paul VI in 1975 indicating that this man had lived a life of heroic virtue.

Since his death, Matt has performed many, many miracles, well, of course God performs the miracles but we pray to Matt and he intercedes at God’s throne for us. But this is the first physical, verifiable miracle that has been performed through Matt’s intercession. When I come to talk to the group, I will tell you more about Matt, and more about the miracle.
If you would like more information about Matt Talbot, please contact me at or at 3901 S, 27th St, unit 4, Lincoln Ne. 68502. I have prayer cards and medals available."

Note: Further information about the miracle referred to in this article is available at

Friday, November 7, 2014

1931 Prayer for the Canonisation of Matthew Talbot

Six years after the death of Matt Talbot, this prayer was issued and approved by the Archbishop of Dublin, Edward J. Byrne, on 15 June, 1931.  Source:


O Jesus, true friend of the humble worker, Thou hast given us in Thy servant, Matthew, a wonderful example of victory over vice, a model of penance and of love for Thy Holy Eucharist, grant, we beseech Thee, that we, Thy servants, may overcome all our wicked passions and sanctify our lives with penance and love like his.

And if it be in accordance with Thy adorable designs that Thy pious servant should be glorified by the Church, deign to manifest by Thy heavenly favours the power he enjoys in Thy sight, who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Inspiration and Hope with Venerable Matt Talbot

Fr. Tom Ryan, PP, who is responsible for the hugely successful Matt Talbot Novenas and author of Comfort my people: prayers and reflections inspired by the Venerable Matt Talbot ( prepared the following remarks for the 2014 novena, which is currently in process. (More information is available at the link below.)
Inspiration and hope with Matt Talbot
Fr Tom Ryan
23 September 2014

“For nine Tuesdays in the months of October and November starting on Tuesday next, 30th September, people will gather each week at the Shrine of Matt Talbot in St. John & Paul Church, Shannon, to pray and intercede for people suffering or sharing in the life of addictions.

Matt Talbot was born in Dublin in 1856 and died suddenly in 1925, experienced at first hand the pain and suffering of addiction.
    Matt worked and prayed and fasted for the gift of temperance. He had experienced at first hand, in his own body, the havoc and the ravage wrought by his drinking alcohol to excess.
    He had felt the horrors of hangovers and saw its effects on his work and on his relationship with his friends and with his family. In fact, he saw that he was slowly but surely destroying himself.
    Somehow or other, by the grace of a good and generous God, he got the strength to give it all up and to go sober.
    He began to see that our hunger and thirst for food and drink is something good – given to us by a good and generous God, to encourage us to eat and drink to keep ourselves alive and strong and well. But he saw also that it was something to be used in moderation.
    One of the things we need, at all times, is a proper approach to the use of food and drink and the sexual power, given to us by God to bring new life into the world.
    There is a right way and a wrong way of using his gifts. There is a temperate way and an intemperate way. The temperate way is the better way.  The intemperate way is the way that leads to disaster, but people don’t see it like that unfortunately. The temperate way is possible.
    Matt Talbot is an outstanding example of prayer and conversion.  The Matt Talbot Novena, now in its 22nd year in Shannon, is our annual opportunity to support by prayer and reflection all suffering or sharing in the life of addictions.
    Matt Talbot has shown that it is possible to change; the power of prayer should never be underestimated.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Blessed Paul VI and Venerable Matt Talbot

2014 has been an eventful year for Popes who knew of Matt Talbot.  Earlier this year Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were both declared saints.
And yesterday, 19 October 2014, Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI (1897-1978), the pope who declared Matt Talbot as “Venerable” on 3rd October 1975, fifty years after Matt’s death.

In a 1974 address in Rome to Calix Society members on the occasion of their twenty-fifth anniversary, the now “Blessed Paul VI” stated: “You have chosen to look upon Matt Talbot as an admirable exemplar of discipline and supernatural virtue. It is our hope that his success will encourage countless men and women throughout the world to realize the need for conversion, the possibility of real rehabilitation, the serenity of Christian reconciliation, and the peace and joy of helping others to overcome abuses, disorders and sin.” (

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Knots Prayer

Whenever the negative voices in your head threaten to take over, consider reciting The Knots Prayer:

Dear God,

Please untie the knots in my mind,
my heart and my life.

Remove the have nots,
the can nots, and the do nots
that I have in my mind.

Erase the will nots,
may nots, and might nots that
may find a home in my heart.

Release me from the could nots,
would nots and should nots
that obstruct my life.

And most of all, Dear God,
I ask that you remove from my mind,
my heart, and my life all of the “am nots”
that I have allowed to hold me back,
especially the thought that
I am not good enough.


Source: Author known to God

Also note:

Friday, October 10, 2014

A physical miracle involving Venerable Matt Talbot?

Thousands of moral miracles have been reported by recovering alcoholics through the intersession of Venerable Matt Talbot. But for beatification, a Vatican confirmed physical miracle is required, which has not occurred yet.

But one is possibly on the that does not involve an addiction nor an adult laborer.

One-year-old Talbot Joseph Watkins wasn’t supposed to be a healthy little boy. In fact, all medical evidence prior to his birth pointed to something seriously wrong. But a possible miracle changed the boy’s fate, which may lead to Matt’s beatification.

This extraordinary story, “The Making of a Miracle,” by Joe Bollig and published in The Leaven (Catholic Newspaper) on September 26, 2014, can be read at

An expanded article on page 5 at includes a brief biography of Matt Talbot, prayer for his canonization, and an interview with Fr. Brian Lawless, the Vice-Postulator, who visited with the Overland Park, Kansas family in August 2014.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2015 Pilgrimage to Matt Talbot's Ireland

The Philadelphia Units of The Calix Society announced that  there will be a June 2015 pilgrimage to Ireland lead by Fr. Brian Lawless.  It will include visiting sites important to the the life and spirituality of Venerable Matt Talbot as well as other spiritual sites (like Knock) and secular sites.  
Check periodically for additional details as they become available.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Active Addiction - a Form of Gluttony

When we think or hear the word “glutton,” our first thought might be of a person who simply eats too much too often. But how many people today think, or in Matt Talbot’s early life thought, active alcoholism and other  addictions as a form of gluttony? 

As noted in the following article, Fr. Longenecker  comments on various forms of gluttony and that the original search for “comfort and sense of well being and happiness” is really found in a “strong relationship with God and a life of true goodness, truth and beauty.”

“There is a grotesque scene in the Monty Python film The Meaning of Life in which a hugely corpulent character named Mr Creosote eats a gigantic meal, vomits repeatedly and then, after eating a tiny after dinner mint, explodes. The comedy is completely outrageous, but you can’t miss the explicitly revolting depiction of gluttony.

Being heavy is not always caused by gluttony, nor does one need to be enormously obese to be guilty of gluttony. St Thomas Aquinas (who was himself overweight) defined five forms of gluttony: 1. eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly;  2. eating food that is excessive in quantity; 3. eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared; 4. eating too soon or at an inappropriate time;  5. eating too eagerly. Gluttony includes any form of addiction. Drug abuse, caffeine or sugar addictions and alcoholism are forms of gluttony, but so is any inordinate attachment to food and drink. Similarly C.S.Lewis (who knew how to down a few pints of beer) points out than being overly fussy about food and drink can also be a form of gluttony. A person who insists on their steak being done “just so” then complains and rejects it is also placing too much selfish attention on food.

We think of gluttony as socially unattractive, but a sophisticated person dining daintily at a fine restaurant may very well be guilty of gluttony because they love their food and drink too much. Indeed, a connoisseur may be a very refined glutton.

Gluttony is a deadly sin not because it is unattractive but because there is a deeper problem. The glutton uses food for something other than its proper intention. Food is given for our nourishment, our enjoyment and for the fellowship of sharing with others. The glutton uses food simply to give himself pleasure or comfort. Think of a baby with a bottle. Not only does he gain nourishment, but he enjoys a feeling of comfort and relief from the warm drink. It’s okay for babies, but we’re supposed to outgrow the need for comfort food, and we shouldn’t need to rely on inebriation of alcohol or the false high of drugs to find the peace and happiness we long for.

To put it plainly, the glutton seeks in food, alcohol or drugs the comfort, and sense of well being and happiness that he should find in a strong relationship with God and a life of true goodness, truth and beauty. That is why the lively virtue that counters the deadly vice of gluttony is temperance.

The seventeenth century poet Thomas Traherne wrote, “Can a man be just unless he loves all things according to their worth?” Temperance is that virtue that empowers us to see the good in all things and to love them without being inordinately attached. Temperance in our consumption of food and drink also helps us to establish temperance in our relationship to other material things in life.

A person who is gluttonous is also likely to be greedy. The person who seeks comfort, peace and happiness in food and drink probably also clings to material things hoping to find security, peace and happiness. By exercising the virtue of temperance in the area of food and drink we will also find victory over our inordinate attachment to our money and possessions.

Temperance is the virtue that allows us to enjoy food and drink to the full, but avoids excess realizing that to abuse the gift is to destroy it. Temperance is therefore gratitude in action. By enjoying God’s gifts in the right proportion and in the right relationship to all things we are saying “Thanks” to God and living in the abundant life he promises.”

Note: To read a perspective on gluttony published during Matt Talbot’s lifetime, see Delany, J. (1909). Gluttony. In The Catholic Encyclopedia at

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jim Larkin, Matt Talbot and the 1913 Dublin Lockout

In the September 2013 issue of Pioneer Magazine, official publication of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart (PTAA), of which Matt Talbot was a member, one article may be of particular interest at 
In the article titled, “Jim Larkin, Matt Talbot, and the 1913 Dublin Lockout,” Sean Ua Cearnaigh provides a brief overview of the historical lockout and Matt Talbot’s role in it. As the author notes, Matt “was not a scab as some critics who did not know him tried to convey” but one in solidarity. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Venerable Matt Talbot as a Beacon of Hope for Those Addicted

This thoughtful reflection was presented at the Venerable Matt Talbot Hope and Recovery Service held at the Shrine of Venerable Matt Talbot, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Dublin, on 17th September 2014. This spiritual recovery evening was open to all seeking recovery from addiction.

The Venerable Matt Talbot - Reflection

Posted September 19, 2014 

“We have gathered here this evening for this service to seek spiritual strength that we need on our lives’ journey of recovery. We gather in this particular place, in this sacred space to draw strength from one who had already done the journey, who had initially been caught up in the cycle of addiction in which we often find ourselves caught in. We come to this Church, where the remains of Matt Talbot are kept.

Matt Talbot was born on 2nd 1856 May to Elizabeth and Charles Talbot on the North Strand, and baptised a few days later. Having attended school for only one year, Matt got his first job. At this time he began to drink and later admitted that from his early teens to his late twenties his only aim in life was heavy drinking.

But at the age of 28, an incident made him realize the abysmal point that he had reached: Matt was broke and so he lingered outside a pub with his brothers with the hope that one of the many friends whom he had helped in their moment of ‘need’ would invite him in. But even his supposed friends disowned him and passed him by, friends whom he had supported in their own moment of need. 

It was an incident which affected him deeply. It triggered in him a soul searching process as he stood on a nearby bridge, gazing at the canal, gazing at the water as it flowed over in the lock. There and then he took a decision; I will no longer share their company or engage in their hollow laughter, but I will arise from my misery. Matt stopped drinking and made an initial three month pledge to God not to drink, which he later took for life. Despite great temptation in the early stages he never took a drink again.

What helped him take this step? I think it was his own Feelings, feelings that had been numbed for many years; without the influence of drink his feelings came rushing in. They were not comfortable feelings, but since he could not resort to his old way of avoiding them since he had no money to buy drink, and none of his friends would oblige him, he had no alternative but to face his feelings.

Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not about persistently indulging in a substance or some soothing behaviour. Rather it is about feelings, or rather disconnecting, cutting off our feelings. We live in an addictive society that seeks to cut off any unpleasant feelings. And when we cut off our feelings leaves us vulnerable, for though we may get some relief from the pain, however we cannot realize the moment when more harm is being done. We need to learn how to Feel our emotions rather than fear them, and this is what Matt learnt to do. Running away from your difficult feelings, means running away from yourself. You cannot form and maintain a solid relationship with anyone else, until you learn how to have a healthy one with you, until you accept yourself without self-judgment.

He knew that he could not achieve this on his own; he needed a higher power in his life, a power that affirmed him, that accepted him without conditions, inviting him to reach his full potential. Recovering from addiction we know is no easy process and Matt himself found it very difficult. But he found the strength he needed in the sacred spaces that dotted the city landscape, in the many churches where he encountered the Divine Presence, the loving embrace. There he encountered Jesus and the deep love that Jesus had for him. You are my beloved; indeed here Matt felt accepted and loved. Whenever he felt weak and the urge knocking at his door, this is where he fled , away from the streets, away from the pubs, away from sight to be close to the Lord and bask in his love. One of his favourite devotions was the Sacred Heart, which is another way of saying sacred Love. His remaining forty-one 'dry' years, were lived heroically, attending daily Mass, praying constantly, helping the poor and living the ascetic life-style of Celtic spirituality. This life was his prayer to God and his defence against a reversion to alcoholism.

Matt Talbot has been given to us as a beacon of hope; he is one of us and so he is able to understand us. That is why within a short time of his death, Matt's reputation as a saintly man and especially as a protector of those suffering from all forms of addiction and their families was being established. He once said: ‘Never be too hard on the man who can’t give up drink. It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on him.’

He was able to make the journey from addiction to wholeness, to holiness. For this is what holiness is about, living a wholesome life relying not on ourselves but with the help of a higher power. He has been entrusted to us so that we can follow in his steps. Matt died in Granby Lane on Trinity Sunday, 7th June 1925 on his way to Mass in Dominick Street. The chains found on his body at death were a symbol of his devotion to Mary, to whom he wished to devote himself as a slave.

This coming year 2015 is the 90th year of his death and it is good that we mark it in a special way. In keeping his memory we seek to draw the same strength that he himself received from the ultimate Good.

Matt Talbot was declared Venerable in 1973 which means the Church has decided that from a human point of view he has the qualifications of a Saint.

In looking at the life of Matt Talbot, we may easily focus on the later years when he had stopped drinking for some time and was leading a penitential life. Only alcoholic men and women who have stopped drinking can fully appreciate how difficult the earliest years of sobriety were for Matt. He had to take one day at a time. So do the rest of us."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mary Unties Knots of Alcoholism

Mary Unties Knots

Writing on the British Jesuits’ site Thinking Faith, Hedwig Lewis, SJ, gives more background on the devotion to Mary the Untier (or Undoer) of Knots, which Pope Francis has promoted for years.  You can also visit a website about the devotion.  The devotion is especially appropriate for “problems and struggles we face for which we do not see any solution:”
Knots of discord in our family, lack of understanding between parents and children, disrespect, violence, the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy at home. They are also the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude. . .
- See more at:
As readers of biographical articles and books about Matt Talbot are quite aware, Matt developed a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother from the time of signing the pledge to give up alcohol.

One particular devotion that Pope Francis has promoted for many years is to "Mary the Untier (or Undoer) of Knots" for a wide range of personal struggles such as “…knots of discord in our family, lack of understanding between parents and children, disrespect, violence, the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy at home. They are also the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude. . .”

For information about this particular devotion to Mary, it would be worthwhile to read the article at and visit the website at